Western lightbulbs

Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.

Have you heard of her? Is she as well known as Malala? “Abeer was a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who lived in a house to the southwest of Yusufiyah, a village to the west of the town of Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq. On March 12, 2006, five soldiers walked to Abeer’s house, and separated her from her family. They shot the parents and sister dead, and proceeded to rape Abeer before killing her. They then burnt the house down, and pretended that Sunnis had set off the fire. Later on, the crime was uncovered and the perpetrators arrested. The mastermind of the crime admitted on record that he didn’t think Iraqis were humans. Abeer was going to school before the US invasion but had to stop going because of her father’s concerns for her safety. She probably had high hopes of studying and becoming a professional. Her father’s commitment to education is evidenced by the fact that he insisted his sons continue going to school even after the invasion had begun.Abeer wanted to study and wanted to go to school but was stopped from doing so by men with another agenda. Does her story sound familiar? Abeer’s story was erased out of history books. Where Western journalists took pains to write Malala’s story in detail, invite her to receptions, give her awards, even help her write a book, the story of another girl yearning for an education was discussed nowhere!! Malala and Abeer is a comparison that shows the difference in the narrative told by the West” (Ayesha Nasir – Journalist, Islamabad)

Advertisements

Eliminate Dengue – Wolbachia pipientis

The biological control of mosquito-borne disease

Backgroundaegypti

Dengue became a widely established disease throughout the tropics with the development of commercial shipping during the 18th century. In 1905 during a large dengue outbreak in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia), local medical practitioner Thomas Bancroft was the first to demonstrate that the mosquito, Aedes aegypti, was a vector of dengue. The epidemiology of dengue was transformed in Southeast Asia during World War II. Troop deployments facilitated the movement of different dengue viruses across the region. This resulted in hyperendemicity (co-circulation of multiple dengue serotypes), a major factor related to the emergence of epidemic  DHF in the Philippines and Thailand during the 1950s. By the 1970s regular DF/DHF epidemics were common throughout Southeast Asia.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that occurs in over 100 countries worldwide and puts up to 40% of the world’s population at risk of infection. With no known vaccine or cure this can result in 50 – 100 million cases and upwards of 40,000 deaths a year.

There are four dengue virus serotypes all of which can cause dengue fever (DF) and dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), a more severe and potentially fatal form of the disease. Dengue imposes a significant global disease burden with some 2.5 billion people – 40% of the world’s population – at risk of infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 50 to 100 million cases of dengue annually.

Elimination of Dengue with “Wolbachia pipientis”wolbachia

An innovative biological approach to manipulate mosquito populations to make them incapable of transmitting dengue viruses between people. If successful it will greatly reduce our reliance on conventional insecticide-based mosquito control.

Wolbachia pipientis is the only species of the genus Wolbachia, family Anaplasmataceae, order Rickettsiales, class a-proteobacteria. The genus Wolbachia is currently defined as monophyletic. W. pipientis are obligate intracellular bacteria that live in the vacuoles of eukaryotic cells. Wolbachia are coccoid or bacilliform in structure and range in size from 0.8 to 1.5 micrometers in length. Wolbachia are gram negative bacteria. They also have two cell membranes and are enclosed within a vacuole.

Approachres

The approach is centered on a naturally occurring bacterial agent known as Wolbachia pipientis. This bacterium is estimated to occur naturally in up to 70% of all insect species. Considering that scientists estimate there may be around 5 million different insect species on the planet, Wolbachia is extremely common in the environment. We know that in addition to well-known insects like Birdwing butterflies, Wolbachia also occurs naturally in many mosquito species that bite humans. Interestingly it does not occur naturally in the mosquito species that are known to be of major importance in transmitting pathogens like malaria and dengue between people.

Program is investigating whether we can use Wolbachia strains that occur naturally in fruit flies to influence the ability of the mosquito Aedes aegypti to transmit dengue viruses between people.

Biological Methods

Results & Conclusions

Researchers have shown that cells infected with Wolbachia display inhibition of dengue virus replication, that the extent of inhibition is related to bacterial density and that Wolbachia infection, although costly, will provide a fitness benefit in some circumstances. Our results parallel findings in mosquitoes and flies, indicating that cell line models will provide useful and experimentally tractable models to study the mechanisms underlying Wolbachia-mediated protection from viruses.

References

www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/dengue_fever/en/
www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/dengue_haemorrhagic_fever/en/

http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v12/n9/index.html

ADifferentAgenda

Moin KhanIt’s well documented how foreign media views and stereotypes Pakistan. For the youth, paranoia has been created which has changed perceptions of Pakistan. There have been various initiatives to challenge and change these stigmas. Till now, nobody had heard of 24-year old Moin Khan but suddenly with the viral impact of Facebook and his website, his popularity has seen a sudden rise as he started a 28,000 mile solo motorcycle journey from San Francisco, California to his hometown Lahore. For several years, Khan had lived in Bay area, California, going to school at San Francisco State University where he studied International Business while also doing various part-time jobs. The news he would hear about his home country was rarely positive and was quite often depressing. From here, Khan developed the idea to do something positive for his country and help change the perception of Pakistan. “You never really hear any good news about Pakistan,” remarks Khan who is currently spending the night in Vancouver. “I wondered how I could play a part in improving the image of Pakistanis and I thought this great adventure gave me the opportunity to break stereotypes and tell people that Pakistan isn’t really all that bad.” For this reason, the trip back to his hometown has been largely unplanned. He will be on the road for four to five months, attempting to interact with people and, hopefully, promote Pakistan. “I have no idea where I’ll be staying during the nights, I have some camping gear but no idea where the campgrounds are,” says Khan. “I am attempting to do this old-school style without the use of global positioning system (GPS) because this will give me a chance to talk to strangers for directions.” The idea may seem far-fetched but Khan does have a rough understanding of the countries he will pass in traveling across the globe. According to his website and Facebook page, Khan plans on riding through Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. He then plans on cruising through Turkey, Iran, thus entering Pakistan and then heading home to Lahore. The bike he is using for the trip is a Honda CBR 600 F4i sport bike, which has been custom fitted with a touring rack but few have tried to go such long distances across so many countries. According to his cousin, Ali Khan, an IT professional in the US, the response to the initiative thus far has been unique and Moin’s Facebook page has gained over a thousand followers in the last couple of days. He added that there was no confirmed date of when he would be arriving in Pakistan but there was already talk of people receiving him when he entered the country. “He had thought of the idea around three years ago and he has always said that whatever small role one can play by speaking to one person at a time, is a form of making a difference,” said Ali. “The interesting thing is that a lot of this is uncoordinated, for instance when he was in Portland a guy from his online bikers forum gave him a place to stay for the night but in other cases its largely hotels or sleeping bags.” In the end, Khan comes across surely as a modern-day adventurer or thrill-seeker who has, as his website specifies, ‘a different agenda’. For him, the journey will help decrease the hole in people’s knowledge about Pakistan.

Rain Harvesting System

Rainwater harvesting is a technology used for collecting and storing rainwater from rooftops, the land surface or rock catchments using simple techniques such as jars and pots as well as more complex techniques such as underground check dams. The techniques usually found in Asia and Africa arise from practices employed by ancient civilizations within these regions and still serve as a major source of drinking water supply in rural areas. Commonly used systems are constructed of three principal components; namely, the catchment area, the collection device, and the conveyance system.

 

A) Catchment Areas

  • Rooftop catchments: In the most basic form of this technology, rainwater is collected in simple vessels at the edge of the roof. Variations on this basic approach include collection of rainwater in gutters which drain to the collection vessel through down-pipes constructed for this purpose, and/or the diversion of rainwater from the gutters to containers for settling particulates before being conveyed to the storage container for the domestic use. As the rooftop is the main catchment area, the amount and quality of rainwater collected depends on the area and type of roofing material. Reasonably pure rainwater can be collected from roofs constructed with galvanized corrugated iron, aluminium or asbestos cement sheets, tiles and slates, although thatched roofs tied with bamboo gutters and laid in proper slopes can produce almost the same amount of runoff less expensively (Gould, 1992). However, the bamboo roofs are least suitable because of possible health hazards. Similarly, roofs with metallic paint or other coatings are not recommended as they may impart tastes or colour to the collected water. Roof catchments should also be cleaned regularly to remove dust, leaves and bird droppings so as to maintain the quality of the product water. (Fig.1)
                                                                                         
  • Land surface catchments: Rainwater harvesting using ground or land surface catchment areas is less complex way of collecting rainwater. It involves improving runoff capacity of the land surface through various techniques including collection of runoff with drain pipes and storage of collected water. Compared to rooftop catchment techniques, ground catchment techniques provide more opportunity for collecting water from a larger surface area. By retaining the flows (including flood flows) of small creeks and streams in small storage reservoirs (on surface or underground) created by low cost (e.g., earthen) dams, this technology can meet water demands during dry periods. There is a possibility of high rates of water loss due to infiltration into the ground, and, because of the often marginal quality of the water collected, this technique is mainly suitable for storing water for agricultural purposes. Various techniques available for increasing the runoff within ground catchment areas involve: i) clearing or altering vegetation cover, ii) increasing the land slope with artificial ground cover, and iii) reducing soil permeability by the soil compaction and application of chemicals ( fig 2).
  • Clearing or altering vegetation cover: Clearing vegetation from the ground can increase surface runoff but also can induce more soil erosion. Use of dense vegetation cover such as grass is usually suggested as it helps to both maintain an high rate of runoff and minimize soil erosion.
  • Increasing slope: Steeper slopes can allow rapid runoff of rainfall to the collector. However, the rate of runoff has to be controlled to minimise soil erosion from the catchment field. Use of plastic sheets, asphalt or tiles along with slope can further increase efficiency by reducing both evaporative losses and soil erosion. The use of flat sheets of galvanized iron with timber frames to prevent corrosion was recommended and constructed in the State of Victoria, Australia, about 65 years ago (Kenyon, 1929; cited in UNEP, 1982).
  • Soil compaction by physical means: This involves smoothing and compacting of soil surface using equipment such as graders and rollers. To increase the surface runoff and minimize soil erosion rates, conservation bench terraces are constructed along a slope perpendicular to runoff flow. The bench terraces are separated by the sloping collectors and provision is made for distributing the runoff evenly across the field strips as sheet flow. Excess flows are routed to a lower collector and stored (UNEP, 1982).
  • Soil compaction by chemical treatments: In addition to clearing, shaping and compacting a catchment area, chemical applications with such soil treatments as sodium can significantly reduce the soil permeability. Use of aqueous solutions of a silicone-water repellent is another technique for enhancing soil compaction technologies. Though soil permeability can be reduced through chemical treatments, soil compaction can induce greater rates of soil erosion and may be expensive. Use of sodium-based chemicals may increase the salt content in the collected water, which may not be suitable both for drinking and irrigation purposes.

B) Collection Devices

  • Storage tanks: Storage tanks for collecting rainwater harvested using guttering may be either above or below the ground. Precautions required in the use of storage tanks include provision of an adequate enclosure to minimise contamination from human, animal or other environmental contaminants, and a tight cover to prevent algal growth and the breeding of mosquitos. Open containers are not recommended for collecting water for drinking purposes. Various types of rainwater storage facilities can be found in practice. Among them are cylindrical ferrocement tanks and mortar jars. The ferrocement tank consists of a lightly reinforced concrete base on which is erected a circular vertical cylinder with a 10 mm steel base. This cylinder is further wrapped in two layers of light wire mesh to form the frame of the tank. Mortar jars are large jar shaped vessels constructed from wire reinforced mortar. The storage capacity needed should be calculated to take into consideration the length of any dry spells, the amount of rainfall, and the per capita water consumption rate. In most of the Asian countries, the winter months are dry, sometimes for weeks on end, and the annual average rainfall can occur within just a few days. In such circumstances, the storage capacity should be large enough to cover the demands of two to three weeks. For example, a three person household should have a minimum capacity of 3 (Persons) x 90 (l) x 20 (days) = 5 400 l.
  • Rainfall water containers: As an alternative to storage tanks, battery tanks (i.e., interconnected tanks) made of pottery, ferrocement, or polyethylene may be suitable. The polyethylene tanks are compact but have a large storage capacity (ca. 1 000 to 2 000 l), are easy to clean and have many openings which can be fitted with fittings for connecting pipes. In Asia, jars made of earthen materials or ferrocement tanks are commonly used. During the 1980s, the use of rainwater catchment technologies, especially roof catchment systems, expanded rapidly in a number of regions, including Thailand where more than ten million 2 m3 ferrocement rainwater jars were built and many tens of thousands of larger ferrocement tanks were constructed between 1991 and 1993. Early problems with the jar design were quickly addressed by including a metal cover using readily available, standard brass fixtures. The immense success of the jar programme springs from the fact that the technology met a real need, was affordable, and invited community participation. The programme also captured the imagination and support of not only the citizens, but also of government at both local and national levels as well as community based organizations, small-scale enterprises and donor agencies. The introduction and rapid promotion of Bamboo reinforced tanks, however, was less successful because the bamboo was attacked by termites, bacteria and fungus. More than 50 000 tanks were built between 1986 and 1993 (mainly in Thailand and Indonesia) before a number started to fail, and, by the late 1980s, the bamboo reinforced tank design, which had promised to provide an excellent low-cost alternative to ferrocement tanks, had to be abandoned.

C) Conveyance Systems
Conveyance systems are required to transfer the rainwater collected on the rooftops to the storage tanks. This is usually accomplished by making connections to one or more down-pipes connected to the rooftop gutters. When selecting a conveyance system, consideration should be given to the fact that, when it first starts to rain, dirt and debris from the rooftop and gutters will be washed into the down-pipe. Thus, the relatively clean water will only be available some time later in the storm. There are several possible choices to selectively collect clean water for the storage tanks. The most common is the down-pipe flap. With this flap it is possible to direct the first flush of water flow through the down-pipe, while later rainfall is diverted into a storage tank. When it starts to rain, the flap is left in the closed position, directing water to the down-pipe, and, later, opened when relatively clean water can be collected. A great disadvantage of using this type of conveyance control system is the necessity to observe the runoff quality and manually operate the flap. An alternative approach would be to automate the opening of the flap as described below.

A funnel-shaped insert is integrated into the down-pipe system. Because the upper edge of the funnel is not in direct contact with the sides of the down-pipe, and a small gap exists between the down-pipe walls and the funnel, water is free to flow both around the funnel and through the funnel. When it first starts to rain, the volume of water passing down the pipe is small, and the *dirty* water runs down the walls of the pipe, around the funnel and is discharged to the ground as is normally the case with rainwater guttering. However, as the rainfall continues, the volume of water increases and *clean* water fills the down-pipe. At this higher volume, the funnel collects the clean water and redirects it to a storage tank. The pipes used for the collection of rainwater, wherever possible, should be made of plastic, PVC or other inert substance, as the pH of rainwater can be low (acidic) and could cause corrosion, and mobilization of metals, in metal pipes.

Advantages

Rainwater harvesting technologies are simple to install and operate. Local people can be easily trained to implement such technologies, and construction materials are also readily available. Rainwater harvesting is convenient in the sense that it provides water at the point of consumption, and family members have full control of their own systems, which greatly reduces operation and maintenance problems. Running costs, also, are almost negligible. Water collected from roof catchments usually is of acceptable quality for domestic purposes. As it is collected using existing structures not specially constructed for the purpose, rainwater harvesting has few negative environmental impacts compared to other water supply project technologies. Although regional or other local factors can modify the local climatic conditions, rainwater can be a continuous source of water supply for both the rural and poor. Depending upon household capacity and needs, both the water collection and storage capacity may be increased as needed within the available catchment area.

Development Costs

The capital cost of rainwater harvesting systems is highly dependent on the type of catchment, conveyance and storage tank materials used. The cost of harvested rainwater in Asia, which varies from $0.17 to $0.37 per cubic metre of water storage.

Effectiveness of  Technology

The feasibility of rainwater harvesting in a particular locality is highly dependent upon the amount and intensity of rainfall. Other variables, such as catchment area and type of catchment surface, usually can be adjusted according to household needs. As rainfall is usually unevenly distributed throughout the year, rainwater collection methods can serve as only supplementary sources of household water.

Accounts of serious illness linked to rainwater supplies are few, suggesting that rainwater harvesting technologies are effective sources of water supply for many household purposes.

External Resources

Collateral Damage

explosion

Amidst our constant and fierce battle against our political leaders, economic fluctuation, oppression, liberal and religious extremism, not to forget the star of them all, terrorism, many have failed or refused to notice the victims of drone attacks. This very alarming instances happening in the northern areas of Pakistan are out shadowed by the many worldly interventions that directly affect our lives as most of us deny reacting until the knife is pointing on our neck. We named our country The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and it may be sheer hypocrisy or just confusion that made the people of this country celebrate the murder of a man-proclaimed blasphemer and yet fall short in defending the lives of our countrymen who too are in the verge of unjustified death.

As a part of The United States of America’s war on terror, they have launched attacks on the northern part of Pakistan as per the findings of intelligence groups which claim that terrorists have sought fortress in that region. The weapon they found to be most viable for the situation are drones or unmanned aerial vehicles which drop missiles on specific target zones. Since 2004, the estimated ratio of 1 militant is to 10 civilians have been killed by drone attacks in North Pakistan alone. Most of these people are civilian casualties or what the self-righteous soldiers have coined like a lifeless “collateral damage”. The value of life in Pakistan is a second rate issue compared to politics and more politics which have already perpetrated all of the society’s roots.

Continue reading